Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Ruin a Reveal

There’s a person I know who has a reputation for ruining stories—a certain father of mine. He can’t hear very well and so he’s often afraid he missed something. Not only that, but he has a unique mind, a specific and original way of thinking. This makes communicating with him awful because while seeing things in a different light, he’s also interpreting something you’re saying in the strangest of ways, and then responding in kind.

Last Mother’s Day, my whole family went out on a trip in the RV. Now trying to tell a story to four whole people without getting interrupted is a problem in itself, but I feel a personal specialness that allows me to say with my family it is even worse. Because it happens to me.

So we’re driving home and I start talking about a man and professional conflict. The good part is it comes from our mutual insecurities in knowing what the hell we’re doing. I have a point, and I have a plan. I began the story.

Before this time, I never realized how much I am glad people can’t ask questions while reading.

When being edited, I have one specific wonderful friend who I can turn to who actually gives feedback. And, you know, read it. While doing so, however, one of the interesting things I find about her methods is she does not enjoy figuring anything out. She wants to be told an answer immediately and tends to shy against any sort of mystery and enigma. I know this; I’ve seen her do it with official movies and books just as much as any manuscript. But the problem is that I also know I tend to be confusing. I’m not much for description, I leave stuff out, and, in all honesty, I tend to just assume people know as much about certain topics that I do—including worlds I made up.

While I feel this is a positive aspect of my writing, it does lead to some deep confusion when getting her responses. When she is baffled, and perturbed by it, is it because of her personal issues or mine? And, like I said, she is wonderful because she is the one person I can count on, so the option of getting other people’s opinion isn’t always an option at all.

In any case, I begin to tell my story, starting with my first impression of this man who I want to bitch about. I state, in the beginning, I just assumed the director knew what he was doing and I would never have questioned it until he went to such lengths to prove it.

My dad starts in on his first typical question, “Wait. Who is this?”

So I tell him. He doesn’t hear, and I tell him again. He doesn’t hear again, and my brother finally shouts at him the response.

“Isn’t he like, well educated or something?” my dad says.

“Yes, but not in the field he’s in.”

I was saving this for later. But, since he brought it up, I begin to explain about his many degrees in many random things and how the one degree that correlates to the subject at hand isn’t enough of a relation to really be considered a great form of experience. He had a degree in dramaturgy, which would be akin to an literary degree that focuses on plays. His job, however, is directing. This is like assuming an English teacher would be great at writing. It kind of makes sense to someone who hasn’t witnessed the transition, but it’s not necessarily true. They’re two separate skill sets.

Meanwhile, my mother has to get out to go to the bathroom. So she says, “Wait a minute,” and I stop my story. But then my dad still keeps acting.

“How long has he been out of school?”

I said I didn’t know—I’m a bad gauge of age—but, while he looked to be probably midlife, he also seemed to be a professional student, having at least four degrees in completely unrelated subjects. I guessed an age and my father said, “I thought he was a young guy!”

So we talked about the three people he could possibly be from the play my father would have seen him in, and after what seemed like 20 minutes later, we came to the conclusion that Dad did not remember him at all.

Then he says, “Well, if he has a degree in it, he has some sort of experience.”

My point is that this is not the case. Which is why I was saving it for later. I was saving it for after I had hinted what the “correct” opinion had been, for after I had proved my opinion. But it’s out in the air now, so I go into a diatribe about this moral of the story, which was actually forcing me to bring my point to the middle of the story instead of the end. I tell my father that while speaking with a member of the tech crew, we got into talking about why the director was so hard to deal with. My coworker decided that though our enemy was an “experienced genius,” he needed to express more gratitude for the effort other people were putting in. I asked him why he thought our dear friend was such an intellectual and he admitted it had everything to do with the reputation of the degree.

Then the car goes quiet. My father waits. He turns around in his seat.

“And?” he asked.

I shrugged, replying, “Well, this is where I’d talk about the foolishness of thinking that someone with a vaguely related degree would be good at something, but I guess we already have covered that.”

There was silence, so I added, “I really don’t have an ending anymore.”

Then my mom got back in the car and wanted me to start over.

Authors want readers asking questions, but this is because they don’t have to stop to answer them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Universe is Against Me


My most recent project proved to be the series of 12 articles, “A Year of Writing.” I don’t remember why I decided to make it, but it became a blast for me. I always like doing blogs, but the “Year of Writing” not only flew onto paper, it, strangely enough, got me excited about writing again.

While its original intent was more for fun than for practicality, I realized that I wanted to participate anyway. Considering that (due to my ill planning) the Year of Writing would best begin in July, based around the numbers of days in a month, and July happened to be coming up, I decided to try out my own advice and commit to a year of writing.

That’s when the universe attacked.

First and foremost, I have three plays due this year that I haven’t done. The one due in August is half-finished, but that leaves very little time for editing. Plays, unlike novels, don’t take that long (I could finish one in a week without a lot of effort), which only makes me want to procrastinate more. But because the Year of Writing was intended for someone who wrote less than I do, and that requirements were less demanding, I believe that I can do both without stress.

But then there’s National Novel Writing Month, which I love participating in for various reasons, despite the stigma and my innate snobbiness. Yet because of the way I structured the Year of Writing, my requirements being 1,750 words a day, and Writing Month being 1,500 words a day, this adds up to 3,250 words a day which is only 750 words more than I normally ask myself to do on a regular basis. Because I also put in breaks of editing, writing, or playing around every three days, I don’t think this will be impossible either. Just stressfully problematic. Hell. It’s only a month.

Then my cat died.

He was old, 19 or 20, and it was bound to happen sooner or later. I don’t think I believed that truly though. He was missing an eye and needed pills every day, but he was majorly happy and energetic. I didn’t see it coming. I was horrified.

Then my job went from five days a week to six days a week.

Now, not only did I work from nine to six every day, plus the hour that it takes to get to and from town, but I didn’t have my usual day off.

And my friend came home.

Being that I wanted to think about something other than the grief, and being too busy is a state of mind, I may have been able to be productive anyway, if not for an old friend staying here for the weekend. More importantly, just the weekend. So I spent my one day off with her, and then went six to eleven to hang out with friends. Had she been available all the time, I may have blown her off, but I only had the option of seeing her right then and there, so as the universe proclaimed, “It must be done now.”

And my job went from six days a week to seven days a week, from nine hours a day to twelve hours a day.

One of my other jobs is stage managing. Well, the second week of July, a show started up. Now I get up at eight and head off to work for nine hours, then go to rehearsal after. My entire Sunday I am working the show, so now, for a limited time, I have no days off.

Then, finally, when I finally got an evening off work, my friend was gone, and I had no other excuses to meet with, my monthly writing group came around, which meant that I got off at six and had to straight to a meeting until nine.

Basically, my schedule did not want me to work.

So, with all of that being said, the conclusion comes down to this: I did it anyway.

Bam bitches. Four short stories, edited, right on track.

The good thing and bad thing about the Year of Writing is that I made the first month relatively easy. This made the fact that though there were several days I couldn’t/didn’t work, I could get caught up without a lot of stress. I didn’t give up. I knew I could do it.

On the other hand, it’s bad because I know I can get caught up, which makes me less motivated to get it done.

In any case, each week I’ll give you an update on how I’m doing. I imagine the rest of the year is going to go like this.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I've Been Tagged

I started blogging for two reasons: One, to talk nonstop about writing where no one could cut me off halfway through because my God do they not care. Two, to develop a relationship with an online community who I could talk to nonstop about writing with because my God there’s a lot of jackasses in writing.

So when I was tagged by the writer of Writing and the Road to Publication, I found myself glad that I actually read the blogs I follow. (Yet, apparently not my comments section.)

These were the posted rules of our chain agenda:

           Link back to the person who tagged you.
           Tag 5 blogs with less than 200 followers.
           Get them to tag more bloggers and keep this thing going.

The Questions: 

5 Things You Need Every Day

I. Productivity. This is the sort of thing that, while I admit to not actually getting it every day, when I don’t have it, I feel sick and sad and grungy; kind of like how eating is. I don’t do that every day either, and it is a big, fat mistake.

II. Dimitri. This is a cat. He is the only one who can get away with acting like a selfish ass and still have me go out of my way for his happiness and approval.

III. “Dancing.” This is in quotes because what I call dancing might look more like pacing to the outside viewer. Pacing and talking to myself. I plan out stories by means of acting them out with loud music to hide the fact that I am actually pacing and talking to myself. While in college I couldn’t do this without my roommate watching, and I guarantee it’s what helped my depression.

IV. Food. Unfortunately. See number I. This seems like something that needn’t be said, but it is specific to me in a peculiar way. I am a very picky eater with limited appetite. I have been called anorexic, which is frustrating. It has nothing to do with weight. Not as frustrating, however, as starving and not wanting to eat anything. Meal time often takes a lot of thought and energy, more than writing, I believe.

V. Getting ticked off at least once. One of the main reasons I read the blogs I follow is because I’m searching for some of those jackasses I talked about. I hope I’ll get over this.

5 Books You Would Recommend
               
I. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I’m not one much for idols; Bill Waterson is my idol. Over the course of 12 books I have attempted to achieve one or more of the elements and styles of the comic, and only recently have I managed to be satisfied in one aspect. I am constantly attempting to take the relationship of Calvin and Hobbes and duplicate it through the not-so platonic relationship of my male and female characters. My most recent book has finally achieved the male protagonist I was looking for, and though he has a very different personality than Hobbes, it’s that watchful, calm, and sarcastic nature that made my Raiden exactly what I was looking for. Having a female Calvin, however, is much harder. Probably because we take women too seriously when they commit to a rant.

II. Gulliver’s Travels. I include this here because it was the first classic I was forced to read that I actually enjoyed. Something about fantasy and sarcasm mixed together is exactly what I need to be in love with a book.

So on that note:

III. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Because it’s damn funny.

IV. Howl’s Moving Castle. What’s great about this book is that the movie is very different, yet it makes it just another story which allows me to love them both without issue of competition. While the first three books listed lack the romance that I want (Sure, Gulliver’s wife is loyal and doting, but you  never really get to see them together), Howl’s Moving Castle has fantasy, sarcasm, and love.

V. Ella Enchanted. I wouldn’t necessarily call this book sarcastic. I wasn’t in love with Ella, I wasn’t in love with the prince, the world was fine and the writing easy, and yet, with all that in mind, it is the book I have read the most of and can never forget about. Why? Who the hell knows.

5 Materialistic Wishes for Christmas Presents
                                                  
I. Macromedia Flash. I think there should be easier programs to draw comics than my out of date Adobe Photoshop. I’m hoping this is one of them.

II. Dungeons and Dragons models. I don’t even have a group to play with anymore. I can’t stop buying them.

III. Advertising space. I have a lot of projects that need advertising and even more impatience for doing it, or forking over the money it would take.

IV. An Xbox. I gave up on video games about seven years ago because it was too hard to write when I could be sucking up my time with them. Then I stole my boyfriend’s old Xbox and played Skyrim for three months straight. I don’t want to buy any Xbox games, I only want to play Skyrim, and I’ll be damned if I pay for something to only play one game. But I would accept it as a gift. If I needed to.

V. A gift certificate to a bookstore. I love looking at books, but I hate spending money (as if that hasn’t been made obvious.) Having a gift certificate takes away the feeling of guilt.

5 Places You Wish to Visit

I. Tokyo. This is held over from my anime obsession days. I still like it, I still emulate it, but I’m now focused on other things. Still would like to go to Tokyo though.

II. Iran. This one is weird, even to me. But I like the diversity of culture and the fact that you have to have life insurance to go makes me giggle.

II. I’ve already been to Greece. Nearly starved myself because I refused to eat anything but gelato (traveling is hard when you don’t even like the food of your own culture.) But I loved it there; it was my favorite place out of everywhere I visited. Mostly because no one can drive. And by “can drive” I mean “gives a shit.”

IV. London. I’m a theatre person. I am a stage manager. I teach acting to kids. I was a theatre major. London is like New York or LA with all sorts of theatrical options, except by its exotic nature, I can pretend that the innate snobbery isn’t the same thing as what we have here in America.

V. Yale. I have been trying to get into their playwriting school every year sense I graduated; they only allow 10 out of 3,000 applicants, but I want it bad enough, I don’t see a reason to give up. I would love to go on a tour there and see the school.

5 Adjectives That Describe You

I was just thinking about this. While talking to a guy about how the difference between the Nice Guy and a nice person was that a person who is nice would never describe himself as nice, but the quintessential Nice Guy is constantly spewing the word as though he’s a web banner getting a nickel every time someone sees it. Then, having just made that determination on the spot, I began to consider how I would describe myself. I think I’ve thought about it too hard and I don’t know.

I. Shy.

II. Cynical.

III. Sarcastic.

IV. Optimistic.

(For those of you wondering, my cynicism comes into play when I’m looking at how things are. My optimism comes out when I’m thinking of how things will be.)

V. Empathetic.

5 Things You'd Say to People About Life 

I. The person speaking the loudest isn’t necessarily the voice of the people.

In fact, he probably isn’t. Most people stop talking when they want to disagree, and pipe up when they have a similar viewpoint. So just because someone is loudly telling you you’re a terrible author, it doesn’t mean everyone feels that way.

II. If you were born with the short end of the stick, it’s unfortunate, but that’s all you got. Show people how you can use it.

III. Let dreams die in their sleep. There’s no reason to put them out of their misery.

IV. Change reality or use reality to your benefit, don’t deny how things really are just because you don’t want them to be that way.

V. You’re abnormal and normal, each in different ways. Figure out how. Use them both to the benefit you.

Other blogs you should read:

I. Failing Up
 



A Year of Writing: Twelfth Month


It’s the last month of a whole year dedicated to writing. Your books are completed, short stories shelved, and you are on your way to the first wave of official rejection. Congratulations!

Day 1. Research and personalize query to second agent.

As we discussed last month, it is important to tell an agent why you think you would work well together. This makes them take a better notice of you, flattering them as well as indicating that you care and are willing to do your work, rather than being just one of the hundreds who think, “I’m going to throw my book out there and everyone will want it.”

Day 2. Research and personalize query to third agent.

Day 3. Write a blog post.

Day 4. Research and personalize query to fourth agent.

Day 5. Research and personalize query to fifth agent.

Because this is (hypothetically) your first book and submission request, it’s best to start small. You’re probably going to get a few rejections back, and, unlikely but hopefully, some sort of feedback. While there are a lot of agents in the world, they’re not unlimited, and it’s often a good idea to test the waters first.

Mark down on your list who you sent letters out to.

Day 6. Edit a short story.

By this time, you should have a total of eight short stories, with at least eight edits between the last four. Keeping in mind a goal of three edits per work, it means we have four more to go. For those of you thinking, I’m a writer not a mathematician for a reason, just listen to the soothing sound of my orders. Find the closest one to being done and work on that.

Day 7. Query a short story.

Let’s get back to this. Again, you want the ability to say, “I’ve published over 20 short stories,” so until you hit 21, you should continue querying.

Day 8. Find or start a writer’s group.

This is a lot easier said than done; believe me, I know. Writer’s groups are hard to gather, hard to keep together, and hard to make remotely useful. But they can be fun, and, more importantly, expedite the process faster than anything else.

Look in bookstores, newspapers, online forums. Ask everyone you know if they would be interested. You might realize you can’t do get three people in the same room together at the same time, but at least you can’t say you didn’t try.

Day 9. Write down your controversial opinions on writing.

Do you like semicolons? Do you like rhyming or non-rhyming poetry? Terse, Carver-esque language, or exaggerated Calvin and Hobbes philosophy?

Try to figure out what you believe about writing that you know you will get in arguments about in the future. This will allow you to spend less time wondering, “Do I disagree because I want her to be wrong or do I actually disagree?” when someone gives you feedback. When someone tells you you overwrite, you can ask yourself are you trying to be like Dean Koontz or more like Stephen King? Rather than sitting there, confused as to if you are doing something wrong or not, you have a better understanding about what is a personal taste.

Day 10. Write a blog post.

Day 11. Make a five-year plan.

Writing is a business, especially if someone wants a career in it. (That’s a joke, my friends.) The biggest mistake people make in writing that they often won’t in any other aspects of their lives is that they have all the time in the world to do it.

Set up a series of reachable, if not challenging goals, and plot out what you need to do it, including what you would like to have done.

Talk about education, resume, awards, promotion and anything else you can think of to help you get to where you need. Even consider a list of different tactics that could help you achieve your goals such as:

Write a great book, get a good platform (a million Twitter followers), get a lot of hits on your blog, network, have some credentials like winning contests, etc.

See where your career is lacking. At this point, probably everywhere. Start keeping your eyes and mind open to solving these problems.

Day 12. Read a published short story.

Now that you have an idea of how to write short stories, it’s a good time to go back and figure out what other people are doing.

Day 13. Read beginning of second novel to friend.

Read through the first three chapters (usually what agents ask for first) to a friend and get their suggestions and feedback.

Day 14. Write a query letter for second novel.

Day 15. Edit query letter for second novel.

Day 16. Edit a short story.

Day 17. Write blog post.

Day 18. Edit query for second novel.

Day 19. Write a fake query for second novel.

Let loose and make the most ridiculous, heartfelt query you can possibly muster. Either you’ll come up with something great or terrible, but it will tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing.

Day 20. Edit a short story.

Day 21. Edit query for short story.

Day 22. Get feedback from reader of second story.

Again a month has passed and it’s feedback day! Let’s pretend your friend has actually read your novel and pull them aside to see what they have to say.

Remember to take charge and take care of them.

Day 23. Edit a short story.

Day 24. Edit pages 1-50 of second novel using friend’s feedback.

Day 25. Edit pages 51-100 of your second book.

Day 26. Edit pages 101-150 of your second book.

Day 27. Edit pages 151-180.

Fourth draft of your second novel is finally done! Time to celebrate. Hand out copies and wait for some feedback, but for now, live long and carefree!

Day 29. Edit second query letter.

AND LASTLY…

Day 30. Brain-storm ideas for third project.

This time we have a break so as to give our first book the courage it needs to head out into the world. But now we have to keep the show on the road.

Start your next book. Keep moving forward. Always stay busy.

Now that it’s time to end the year off, you have officially come to terms with your own personal strengths and weaknesses, tendencies and faults. You don’t need me anymore. Start plotting out a personal schedule for you; make up your own Year of Writing. And, most importantly, look back on what you’ve done and feel accomplished. We did it!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Year of Writing: Eleventh Month


The year is coming towards an end. Two more months to go and we’ve met with our commitments. By this point, we have two novels in the work, one prepped for submission. Now that we’ve focused on the process of writing, learning about ourselves, and dug deep into the actual process, it’s time to consider the career aspects of the story.

Day 1. Write down a manifesto of a “good” book.

One of the more commonly skipped over aspects of improvement is defining what improvement is. This is because in most fields it’s obvious. How quickly you can do a math problem and get the right answer shows how good you are at it. But there is no right answer in writing (meaning that no matter what you do someone will tell you it’s wrong), and being able to do it fast is not necessarily an indication of quality.

Your manifesto is personal. It does not need to be universal, it does not even need to apply to books that aren’t yours. Consider what you want to be writing, not necessarily what encompasses all of the stories you love. For example, you might say that a good book is “Something with comedic characters over horrible and dramatic situations,” despite knowing that many great novels don’t fit into that category. This tells you what goals you specifically are aiming for and removes the issue of subjectivity when time comes for you to evaluate your own work.

Day 2. Read 30 pages of a novel.

Day 3. Show your friend’s comments on first book to another set of eyes.

This is best, of course, if the second person has read the story, but it isn’t necessary. By having another person’s opinion on the first opinion, you’ll be able to tell if the feedback is unclear, mean, or subjective. They also may help you understand it better, and even feel better about it. Even when the second person agrees with them. By talking it out, the catharsis will come.

Day 4. Write a blog post.

Have online deadlines finished a day early so I can update them on time. Mostly because I’ll procrastinate my way out of doing it. Write it today and post tomorrow.

Day 5. Go into the book store and read summaries.

I recommend for anyone who ever wants to do anything remotely competitive, to put yourself in the position of the evaluator. By being witness to the judgment process, you will often learn how ridiculous and arbitrary it can be.

Go to a bookstore and read the backs of at least 30 books. It is important that, whatever the number, it is a lot, because you will quickly understand how a view of quality is effected by mass comparison.

You may also do this online, but I think a bookstore is nicer.

Every time you find a book with a summary you want to read, keep it off the shelf. Every time you find one that you wanted to read until… keep it in a separate pile. Anything that stands out as really unappealing, keep in another pile.

Take the whole mess of books and note what specific sentences and words made you want to read it/not read it, what about them that worked/didn’t work for you, and why you think that is.

You will learn several things: how best to entice a reader and how cynical you are. If you had a hard time finding one book you wanted to read, and even then felt like you were settling, you’re a very critical person. This is a good sign for your own work, but also something you will struggle with your entire career (Am I being more critical than the average person will be?) If you have pulled most of the books into the interested pile, you are very open minded. This means that when you don’t like what you’re doing, you probably really are being harsh on yourself being that you aren’t hard on other people.

While at the bookstore, take a moment to find where your book would be in it, including the (presumed) genre and location by last name. Take a moment to gauge the size of the other books. Though we have been aiming for 90,000 words, it does vary from genre to genre.

Day 6. Read 30 pages of a novel.

Day 7. Write down a manifesto of a bad book.

This is like the first manifesto, but instead of writing what you want your book to be, write what you don’t want your book to be. Clarify to yourself the difference between a bad book and a mediocre one. Try and be as specific as possibly (i.e. why it is bad), but include everything such as “boring” along with really detailed and intellectual reasons.

Day 8. Read 30 pages of a novel.

Day 9. Write down your personal obstacles.

Now that you’ve written a hell of a lot, you’re starting to understand what you don’t do naturally. Good writing requires a balancing act, and generally with one strength comes one weakness. The most typical are:

Big picture versus little picture—Authors either focus on plot/setting or character/atmosphere. They have great, big epic adventures with shallow, stereotypical people or boring, dull events with motivated and colorful personalities. They write interesting places, but the images don’t settle around the reader, discussing the forest and not the trees, or vice-versa.

Believable versus desirable—There is a direct conflict between saying what people will believe and what people want to hear. While many people err back and forth (sometimes being too believable, sometimes being too, well, realistic), most tend towards one or the other. Is it likely that one man will be able to take on six highly trained soldiers in a fight? No. But does anyone want to read about the protagonist who got jumped and then died pathetically? Not really. Good storytelling combines elements of desire with elements of reality, giving the people what they want in a way that they can still pretend it’s not some story people are making up.

Mysterious versus clear—Basically, an author tends to overwrite or underwrite. Those who focus on being clear have this explanatory and often unatmospheric voice with repetitive word patterns and obvious explanations. Those who focus on maintaining mystery have long, winding sentences in which no one knows what the hell they’re talking about. Or why they’re talking about it. The benefits for both sides are obvious, and the key is to focus on whichever side you don’t naturally lean towards.

Come up with anything that you know you don’t innately do so that, for the next project, you can predict the problem and make editing a whole lot easier.

Day 10. Read 30 pages of a novel.

Day 11. Edit your query letter.

By this time, you should be looking for basic typos and grammatical errors. If you’re not in love with it, it’s time to look to yourself to consider why.

Day 12. Start looking up agents.

The intent of the Year of Writing is for an author to start a career. This is why we are going to take the traditional publishing route. There is not so much of a stigma against it now, but having a self-published novel that wasn’t a gigantic success will often be a black mark on your resume (at least for the time being.) You’re not supposed to mention it in a query letter, and if they find out you had one out without talking about it, agents are likely to be pissed too.

How to find agents:

Go to the bookstore, find books in your genre and look at the acknowledgements pages. They typical thank their agents.

Buy the Writer’s Market. This is a book that is easy to find and gives proper names and websites of a good deal of real, legitimate agents.

Go to the contact page of published authors and see if they have a contact through their agent. BUT don’t do this for hot trends like 50 Shades of Gray or the recent best seller. They’ll get a lot of unsolicited crap from people doing the exact same thing as you.

Writer’s conferences. (You can just find local writer’s conference’s websites and usually they advertise on names there, however, at the actual event you can meet them in person.)

Start coming up with a good list of possible agents, and include:

Specific agents name (spelled right for reference), web address (for quick referral at time of submission), the submission’s email address, any specific guidelines required, a response time (if they, unlikely, include one) and a check box for SENT and RESPONDED.

Get at least five names to start out with, but I would recommend ten.

Day 13. Read 30 pages of a novel. Write a blog post.

Day 14. Edit 1-30 pages of your second novel.

Day 15. Edit 31-60 pages of your second novel.

Day 16. Edit 61-90 pages of your second novel.

Day 17. Finish reading a novel.

Novels, of course, vary in length, so my assumption was that your book was less than 300 pages. If not, read on.

Day 18. Get feedback from 1st reader.

A month is up and we’ll assume that your requested reader has done her work. Seek her out and ask her to tell you what she thought of the book. The first person you should ask is the person you think will be the harshest and most thorough of the three, allowing you to ask the others what the hell the first person meant.

Whenever you feel confused in a critique, just ask, “What is the problem you are trying to solve?”

Day 19. Edit 91-120 pages of your second novel.

Day 20. Get feedback from 2nd reader. Write a blog post.

Remember, let them express their ideas first, then ask questions, then ask questions about other people’s feedback.

Make the second reader your nicest friend, the one who will probably say they like everything. They will build up your confidence after the first and probably give you a clear idea on what you should think about the first’s opinions.

Day 21. Edit 121-150 pages of your second novel.

Day 22. Get feedback from 3rd reader.

This has to be the one you trust the most. This is the person who you think knows what they’re talking about, who likes you, but who probably isn’t going to lie. They will confirm the good things that your nice friend said about you (which you probably have been doubting) and be able to clarify what your harsh critique might have meant. Let them know beforehand if there is any thing you’re sensitive about and need them to be delicate while discussing.

Take this time to express all your concerns with them and talk out the problems you are worried about.

Day 23. Edit 151-180 pages of second novel. Give copy to reader.

Finish up the third draft of your second book.

Day 24. Go through and notice what all four readers had in common and disagreed on.

The important thing is to pay attention to the problems they agreed on rather than the solutions.

A problem is a response the reader has that we don’t want and isn’t quantifiable, where as a solution implies an action and is arguable.

Problems: It is boring, confusing, pretentious, pointless, or unbelievable.

Solutions: Too many characters, always simplify language, don’t use passive sentences, doesn’t have a climax.

You can tell a problem because it is a negative no matter “how much” of it there is. Too boring and boring is the same thing. Not boring enough doesn’t make sense. Too many characters and many characters are separate things, not enough characters being a different problem altogether.  Sometimes people confuse solutions with problems, as in this scenario of “too many characters.” But it implies cutting characters, which is an action not a reaction. If the advice changes by removal of the word “too” it means that they’re trying to solve a perceived issue, not that it is a perceived issue.

You’ll notice how saying “You have too many characters” might seem less rude than “You’re boring,” which is the reason why people choose to tell you that way. It just is also hard to deal with, because “You have too many characters,” could mean either it’s boring or it’s confusing. Or both.

It’s important to consider the underlying problem rather than the solution because the answer is where people. Three different people find the story confusing, one might suggest making the wording simpler, one might suggest adding more description, and one might say it’s too busy and to cut down on the amount of information being delivered. By knowing that they just want it to be clearer, the author better understands how to tackle it.

Day 25. Edit pages 1-50 of your first book.

Using your newfound judgment on the piece, start a final draft of the book. Now we’re in the long haul. Reading your book quickly is the best means to achieve a big picture of it.

Day 26. Edit pages 51-100 of your first book.

Day 27. Edit pages 101-150 of your first book. Write a blog post.

Day 28. Edit pages 151-180

At this point in time, you should be confident in your work. The reality is that if you’re not, you should keep editing until you are. Or, maybe, put it aside and write a few more stories in between until you know how you want to improve it.

Having several drafts with outside feedback meanwhile is very beneficial, but hard to do. What you’ll often find is that as you tried to fix the problems, they are still lurking there, and each time you can test it out to see how well your solution worked. However, because my biggest failing in writing was waiting too long before submitting, I am recommending not following in my tracks and just going for it. Use your instinct, but realize the worst that can happen is they say no. And laugh at you, but you won’t be there for that.

Day 29. Edit query letter.

This is the last draft of the query, and by this point you should be fairly happy with it too. I wouldn’t be surprised if you aren’t ecstatic, but you should have some faith in it.

Day 30. Research your list of agents.

One of the things to include in your query is personal investment in each agent. One of the important elements to being successful is, pardon my French, but looking like you give a shit.

Agents are people too, and they can be insulted and insecure like the rest of us.

Think about it this way:

You’re a successful novelist. You always need some promotion, but you’re also really busy. Someone comes up to you and says, “I love your book. I love everything about your book. I want to write just like you,” and then proceeds to tell you everything about your story and how they loved it, having a full, clear understanding on the story. Then she says, “Will you come to my book club and talk?”

OR

You’re a successful novelist. Someone comes up to you and says, “You’re a writer right? What do you write? Oh. That’s cool. I’m having a book club meeting this week and I was supposed to grab someone to talk. You think you could swing by?”

It’s possible you could say yes. You might be in the right mood, or it might be more interesting to you, or you see it as beneficial, but when considering that these people have the same sort of requests all the time, then if they’re remotely questioning whether or not they want to do it, the first person will make them give it a second thought—they probably want to help you—but the second would be easy to go “No way in hell.”

Again, people need genius proven to them, and in order to do that, they have to commit to hearing you out. Playing on people’s egos, being nice, showing you’re not blitzing them, showing them you can work hard, showing them that you really care and really want this (by doing it right) will make them more likely to look your one page query over again rather than giving a sigh of relief they can just toss it.

So look up one of your agents and find a reason why you think you should submit to them specifically. You shouldn’t have to lie and you shouldn’t have to be vague: “It’s a science fiction and you say you like science fiction.” You can tell them things like, “This novel’s dark yet comedic tone is similar to the book you represent, BLAH BLAH.” In a perfect world, you would have actually read the story, but I understand why that might not be reasonable. Although, if they do ask for a full manuscript, be sure to have read it by the time they can ask you what you liked about it.

Day 31. Send out a query.

With everything set up, this should be a quick day. Make sure to read the query one last time before you send it out.

It is very important to spell the agent’s name right and to not CC others on the same email. Only send one query to each agency, no matter how many different agents they have that might take your book.

Put your physical address, your email address, your phone number, and (only if it’s finished) your website address at the bottom. Make it as easy to contact them as possible.

Currently, most places are doing queries by email, but there are some that want snail mail. Whichever it is, they’ll tell you on the website. Follow the rules exactly. This is the prime indication that you have confidence in your work, that you are respectful, professional, and did your work.

Any jazzy gimmicks are thrown out. They say do not send presents, do not do letterheads. Make the font Times New Roman 12, (although I believe Calibri probably wouldn’t hurt anything either.) Some say Courier New, but I don’t suggest it; it’s a little harder to read and says, “I’M OLD.” On that same note, don’t double space after periods.

The query should be in third-person, even if the manuscripts in first, and it should contain information about the plot, any impressive/related background information, such as your short stories that are sure to be published by now, English/creative writing degrees, or related experience to the story. (It’s a crime novel and you used to be a cop.) Make sure to include your word count.

You may be asked to send in the first few chapters of the story, but the website will tell you if they want it or not.

If you can, try to send it on a weekday. While this doesn’t affect some agents, others explain they will come in on Monday with a huge pile of email they have to skim through. They read these as fast as they can to get through them all. During the week, however, they’re usually caught up and are more likely to take their time.



Congratulations, you have completed the first step to a long career: writing and submitting. Most people don’t get this far.

Now I don’t guarantee an acceptance. In fact, if you get one so fast, I’m going to be pissed. But for the next year you will be submitting and querying and getting horrible responses or worse, no responses, and the important thing is, in the big picture, it doesn’t matter. You’re taking chances and getting experience.

Just remember how ridiculous ways to make decisions can be, that rejections in writing always sound harsher than they are, that everyone has different tastes, and that their perception of you doesn’t matter; they’re just people.